Dear future yogi,
I am so happy you are interested in starting your own yoga practice. Maybe, reading the following words will help you to take a step into an exciting and lifelong way of self-love. When trying out something new, we often tend to feel skeptical and reserved. We may have doubts and prejudices, sometimes positive, sometimes not. You might have heard a lot about yoga, because it has become so popular in the Western world, spreading through every possible media channel. This popularity of yoga leads to hundreds of podcasts, social media accounts, blogs like these or even magazines. You might have watched some YouTube videos or got into contact with yoga because a friend of yours is already practicing.
Anyhow, I totally understand that all the information can become overwhelming, creating an image in your head about what yoga should look like and how to “do” it. It might motivate you, or scare you.
In this post, I am going to give you some basics on yoga, its origin and why and how to start. I hope that this post helps you to start your own practice and be as delighted as I was when I started practicing.
So, let’s get to the basics: What is yoga?
Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self. - The Bhagavad Gita, one of the most famous and cited sources on yoga. Yoga, or yog (this is the more traditional term), derives from the Sanskrit term yuj, which translates into to yoke. Yoga developed out of philosophical texts influenced by different cultural branches, like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and others. Its development was firstly transmitted orally. The first account of written texts can be found in the Vedas, the oldest religious texts on Hinduism. There, yoga and its benefits have been firstly mentioned. Throughout the millennia, more and more accounts on yoga, the most famous ones being the Bhagavad Gita (philosophical aspects of yoga), the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (texts on Hatha yoga, the base form of all varieties of yoga), or the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (about the theories and practice of yoga). In all these scriptures, many characteristics of yoga are discussed, and the term has been defined in several ways. Until today, the term yoga is so divers that it is difficult to find the one answer.
What does yoga mean to you?
At the first day of my yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, our philosophy teacher asked us, “What is yoga to you?” I was so confused and then realized that I never really thought about it. I don’t even remember what I answered, but I do remember that all of us had different definitions. If you ask 10 people, they will surely come up with different definitions of their own. One might say yoga is finding balance and peace, another might say the practice of asana. For the third person, yoga could be about a holistic lifestyle, and the fourth might find relieve in yoga from her/his back pain. I think you get the gist. The beauty of this diversion is that it shows how universal yoga is and what it can do.
Based on this experience, a good starting point might be to ask yourself, “What is yoga to me?” As you come up with an answer, you’ll notice that it might be something entirely different from the ones above. What they all have in common, however, is their healing aspect. Yoga is about healing - or balancing - your body, mind, and soul. Yoga is also about union, the union of those three parts of yourself. It’s a holistic aim. Whatever your starting point will be, in the end you will feel the benefits on all levels. Your asana practice will release a feeling of health and body awareness, which will make you trust in yourself. This selfconfidence will lead ultimately to inner growth and peace. You see? It’s all combined. Nothing can go without the other. :)
With that said, I think you understand that yoga is about yourself. As with the definitions of yoga, it is the same about your practice. Yoga concentrates on your development. No need to look outwards and see what others can or can’t do. That won’t help you to practice. It might motivate you, but it can also lead to injuries because you’re not listening to your body. So, the second point of yoga is that it is all about you. Isn’t that great? What I like most about yoga is the fact that it is individually applicable, but still a universal practice from which everyone can benefit. It is like nutrition – we all need it but we can vary it to our own needs. It’s like an inclusive system and one of the oldest traditions of mankind. It has developed over thousands of years, evaluated from great yogis and it has helped so many to find back to their inner self. That’s why there are so many confusions all around it. It is pretty complex, but in the end it is also very easy. As soon as you get to know your needs and wants, you can dive into the world of yoga and develop a holistic lifestyle that helps you to become the person you are, to go back to the roots and your original self. How and where to start your own practice?
There are several ways to start your journey into the yoga world. Here are some tips
that might help you:
- Find a local studio where you can get a trial lesson.
- Try out as many styles and studios as you want to! You have to feel comfortable in that studio.
- Ask the teachers questions about their practice.
- Do a beginner’s course. Many studios offer a package on beginner’s lessons and focus on how to build a stable asana practice. They will also introduce you to meditation, breathing, bandhas (energy locks) and so much more.
- *Note: There are many countries where yoga is supported by your health insurance.
Try to find out if they cover the fees for you.
- Look up some videos on YouTube. There are multiple yoga channels that focus on beginner’s yoga. Besides a studio, you can develop a solid home practice.
- Find a teacher for private classes. There are many yoga teachers that offer also private classes. If you would like to practice at home, at your own pace, with a teacher that supports you on an individual level, this might be a great option for you. Private classes are a bit more costly, but they are worth it, since you have a person that gets to know you on a deeper level and adjusts classes to you. These are optimal conditions!
- Read some blogs and books about yoga. You can get so much information by “just” reading about yoga. I highly recommend to everyone that they buy a book on how to do the asana. A lot of books offer great instructions on how to enter an asana in a safe way.
- Don’t stress out about the practice. Just go with the flow. In the beginning, it will feel difficult and you might not be able to follow the full class. That’s ok. Give yourself time.
My last and most important tip on how to start your practice is this: Do not – under any circumstances – expect anything in the beginning. Expectations lead to disappointments and frustrations. Do not expect that you will be able to be like the yogis you see on social media. They made it their business to post yoga pictures and are amazing athletes who practice several hours daily. Their practice reaches back to many years and that is their way, not yours. If you get inspiration from them, great! Nevertheless, focus on yourself and see what your body is capable of. This is your journey, your body, your way to your self. Treat it like that and you will see that without expectations, it will be way easier for you to develop a stable practice that leads you further on your path to a yogic – or holistic – lifestyle.
Wishing you all the best! Lots of love, Mandy xx
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